What's the first thing that comes to mind when the words "hotel restaurant" are mentioned? Is it a breakfast buffet of rubbery eggs and bacon?
I bet you didn't think you could get pan-seared duck breast with confit thigh and leg, sautéed escarole, roasted baby beets, and carrots with roasted duck gastrique in the same place where the valet is also carrying in luggage for hotel guests.
45 Bistro is one of the restaurants that break the mold of what it means to be a restaurant affiliated with a hotel.
General Manager of 45 Bistro, Danny Steinfeldt, speaks about "the stigma of being inside of a hotel. People think that we're a 'hotel restaurant,' so they don't realize how wonderful it's going to be."
Steinfeldt continues, "A lot of people have a preconceived notion of a hotel's restaurant as being just kind of a cookie cutter, pre-made crap, if you will. Obviously, we are not like that. Everything is freshly made with the finest of ingredients. You know, as fresh and as local as we can get."
Well, quinoa encrusted, pan seared, local black grouper with goat cheese gratinéed creamed spinach and sun-dried tomatoes isn't so cookie cutter.
And with an appetizer of wild Georgia shrimp with local stone ground grits, tasso gravy and fried Vidalia onion rings — there are few dishes that stay so close to home.
While the restaurant does provide breakfast and wine and cheese receptions for the overnight guests, most business is independent from the hotel. They don't do room service but they will deliver on a fine-dining experience.
Steinfeldt shares that one of his "customers who was staying at a different hotel say something about not wanting to support another hotel. So, I haven't really heard too much as to why concierges wouldn't send us people, because I think people know we're separate businesses. I guess if they feel like they are supporting another hotel, that could be a negative."
Being limited on recommendations because of a location is something that may hold business back. But it's a common misconception that a restaurant in a hotel is owned by the hotel.
While HLC Properties owns the Marshall House, 45 Bistro is a privately-owned, local restaurant.
"I guess originally they tried doing the restaurant here and they're hotel people, and they weren't able to make a go of their restaurant. So, they wanted to bring in a restaurant guy to take over the restaurant. Let them do the hotel business which is what they are good at. And let somebody else rent the property from them and run the restaurant," says Steinfeldt.
Whether they are restaurant people or hotel people, each of these businesses has very different specialties.
Like any fine dining restaurant, 45 Bistro has its own executive chef, Brian Palefsky, and a kitchen staff comprised of specific roles that all take part in making a perfect dish. Sous chef Alfredo Soto points out that what makes the difference is, "the fresh ingredients, the quality of meats and fish and you know, the people that we have in the kitchen — we actually care. We really do care. And it's not just a couple of cooks off the street, it's people who know what they're doing. Each person has a special job in the kitchen, and they all tie it together."
And even though space allows for special events and private parties, the dining room itself is modest in size.
"We don't do as many people as a lot of the other fine dining restaurants in town do. And because of that we can put a lot more attention into each one of the plates," mentions Steinfeldt. Even in wedding parties of over one hundred guests, the kitchen staff will focus on a fraction of the orders at a time.
"The quality of the people in the kitchen also helps. You can have a really fine-dining restaurants but you know, you're paying some guy eight dollars an hour and they're not going to put their heart into their work. And we put our heart into our work," says Soto.
"This is pretty much our home. It's just a passion we have—we signed up for this. And this is what we love to do."
45 Bistro is proof that it isn't about where you do it , it's about how it's done. And Chef Palefsky does it well (or medium rare, if preferred) with dishes like black angus filet mignon, seared au poivre with gorgonzola gratinée pomme frites, fresh arugula, tarragon and roasted garlic aioli.
Restaurantgoers can sign up for a fine dining experience in other hotels as well, including 22 Square Restaurant at the Andaz hotel, 700 Drayton Restaurant at the Mansion on Forsyth Park and Rocks on the River in the Bohemian Hotel.
So, while there is a door to 45 Bistro from the lobby of a hotel, remember that it also has its own entrance on Broughton Street.